Steelers take Fautanu at 20

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers selected offensive tackle Troy Fautanu with the 20th overall pick in the first round of Thursday’s NFL draft, giving them a potential bookend to last year’s top pick Broderick Jones.

The 6-foot-4, 317-pound Fautanu started 15 games at left tackle last season as the Washington Huskies reached the College Football Playoff final against Michigan. He won the Joe Moore Award, given annually to the top offensive lineman in the country, in the process.

The 23-year-old Fautanu joins an offense that hit the reset button in the offseason, signing quarterback Russell Wilson, trading for quarterback Justin Fields and hiring former Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith as offensive coordinator.

The Steelers still plan on relying heavily on one of the top running back tandems in the NFL in Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren, both of whom topped 1,000 total yards last season.

Pittsburgh had several needs coming into the draft, including at center and wide receiver. The Steelers opted for the versatile Fautanu, who has the talent to play multiple positions, though head coach Mike Tomlin stressed Fautanu would remain at tackle.

Which tackle — right or left — will be determined later.

Tomlin said Fautanu caught his eye while casually watching Washington games last season. There was something about the way the Huskies utilized Fautanu in an offense that featured left-handed quarterback Michael Penix that struck Tomlin as unique.

Yet it wasn’t just the way Fautanu could work in space that stood out. The Steelers did a deep dive on Fautanu, meeting with him at the NFL combine and bringing him in for a pre-draft visit.

Tomlin also opted to use Alabama’s Pro Day as a chance to get feedback from Kalen DeBoer, who left Washington for the Crimson Tide in January. What Tomlin heard were tales of a player who enjoyed every aspect of the game, from preparation to performance.

“His passion is real,” Tomlin said. “It’s a calling card.”

Fautanu’s arrival also means Jones could potentially stay at right tackle next season. Dan Moore Jr., who has made 49 starts at left tackle since being drafted in 2021, is entering the final year of his contract.

All of that will be settled starting next month when Fautanu comes in for rookie minicamp. While the Steelers considered trading down from No. 20, given the rating they had on Fautanu, they didn’t think they could risk losing him.

“He’s a black-and-gold type of guy,” Tomlin said.


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